The first White House press conference was ‘delightfully boring’

White House from the front lawn view

All in all, press conferences should be pretty straightforward. Share the facts. Answer questions. Provide context and insights.

Even to the casual observer, White House press conferences have been lacking that normalcy over the last four years, that is, even when they took place at all. Not only was there no regular frequency to them – in 2019, the press office went more than 40 days without one – perhaps worse, it was hard to tell fact from fiction. Very often, questions from reporters were dodged or ignored entirely.

Typically, when press conferences are reported on, the focus is on the news, not how the press conference itself was conducted. But the Biden administration’s Day One press conference was so remarkably different than what we had become used to, that briefing itself garnered significant coverage (including in this blog).

The New York Times headline read Jen Psaki’s Debut: No Attacks, No Lectures, No Crowd Size Fixation. From FOX, the headline to an online story was Psaki says she will bring ‘truth and transparency back’ during first White House press briefing.

Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, tweeted, “Wait, a press secretary just stating facts and then answering questions truthfully? This is going to take some getting used to.” The tweet received 2.5k likes, with commenters noting the first conference held under the new administration was delightfully boring and refreshing.

Poynter devoted a section of its morning media newsletter to the new press secretary and the initial press conference stating, “New White House press secretary Jen Psaki held her first White House press conference Wednesday evening, only hours after Biden became president. She spoke and took questions for 30 minutes and immediately set an optimistic tone that the press office of this administration would be more open than the last one.”

Last week, our team was talking to a group of college students who are interested in the communications field. Our conversation focused on media relations – how it’s done and why it works – but also the importance of transparency and credibility, and most of all the responsibility that we carry as communications professionals to use our skills to share information with the public in an accurate and efficient manner.

We’re only one press conference in under the new administration, but this return to normalcy is a win for our profession.

Image credit: Diego Cambiaso, Flickr

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Megan Irvin

Megan spends her days doing media relations, community relations, content creation and events for clients like Kroger Mid-Atlantic, Virginia Distillery Company and Mercy Chefs. Her favorite part of her job is working with clients and providing strategic counsel — and garnering media attention for clients in outlets like TODAY, Esquire, USA Today and Bon Appetit.

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